Must Employers Pay for Snow Days, Rain Days, and Emergencies?

What Are Your Responsibilities as an Employer for Employee Pay?

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When you're faced with a snow day, rain day or other emergencies that may affect your employees working, an employer has to think about two factors. What legally guides your decisions about paying employees—or not?

But, more importantly, how will your employees feel about your decisions? And, what harm can they potentially inflict on employee morale and whether employees will view you as an employer of choice?

Let's start with your legal requirements because they are the easiest to apply to your situation. Employee pay depends on several factors including whether the employee is exempt or nonexempt, state and Federal laws, and the policies you develop as an employer. Whether you voluntarily close for the day is also a factor you will want to consider.

Pay for Exempt Employees for Snow Days, Rain Days, and Emergencies

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division manages the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Additionally, states may have additional rules that are applicable in your circumstances, so you will want to check with your state department of labor, or an employment law attorney, in addition to the guidelines provided here.

According to the DOL, if an exempt employee performs any work during the work week, he or she must be paid their full, normal salary. Consequently, if an employer closes because of inclement weather such as rain, snow, or other emergencies, if the employee has worked that week, he must be paid his normal salary.

If the employer closes the business for the day, the employer may not make deductions from exempt employee's pay for absences the employer caused or was caused by the operating requirements of the business. If the exempt employee is willing and able to work, an employer cannot take deductions from his or her pay when work is not available.

If the employer decides to close part way through a day, for example, if the weather is worsening and state or local officials have declared a state of emergency, he must pay exempt employees their full salary. Even if no emergency was declared and the employer makes the decision to close out of concern for the welfare of his employees, the employer may not dock pay.

If the exempt employee chooses to take time off during a rain day, snow day, or another emergency, and the employer is open for business, the employer may require the use of vacation time, paid time off or other accrued paid leave. If the exempt employee is not yet eligible to use accrued paid leave, the employer may take a deduction from his or her salary for a whole day of work missed.

Another option you might consider is asking employees to work from home if they feel unsafe coming into work. If the employee does work from home, the employer should not require the use of paid time off.

What can happen on inclement weather days though, is that schools, daycare providers, and other services also close. Consequently, a parent may be unable to work from home and should use paid time off.

There is an element of trust involved although managers who know how to manage teleworking employees can monitor the individual situation. A teleworking policy that covers employee availability, communication and more is helpful.

Pay for Nonexempt Employees for Snow Days, Rain Days, and Emergencies

The rules are different for nonexempt, or hourly paid, employees. Generally, if a nonexempt employee does not come to work for whatever reason, the employer does not need to pay him or her. If the employer closes the business for a day due to a rain day, snow day or other emergencies, the employer does not have to pay the nonexempt employees.

Consider, however, that employees are missing work for reasons that are not their fault. Employers should consider paying employees for the day or part of the day. This gesture cements relationships and communicates effectively that the employer is committed to its employees' well-being.

However, if an employer closes the company part way through a day, he does have to pay for hours worked. In some states, an employer must pay employees a minimum number of hours if they have reported for work. Know the laws that govern the jurisdiction in which your organization is located.

Policy for Nonexempt Employees for Snow Days, Rain Days, and Emergencies

Employers need to develop a policy about how they will handle employee work hours and pay in the event of a rain day, snow day, or other emergencies. The inclement weather policy should cover:

  • what constitutes an inclement weather day,
  • pay for employees,
  • how work responsibilities will be covered,
  • how employees will be contacted, and
  • guidelines for what the employee needs to do when an employee cannot make it to work because of weather.

The policy makes facts known so that employees know what to expect when inclement weather or other emergencies occur. It also gives the managers making the call about closing for inclement weather, guidance for their decision making.

Interested in the rationale and thinking behind the policy creation? See ​the Rationale for an Inclement Weather or Other Emergency Policy.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.